Project description by jury
The proposal describes an artificial intelligence-based method that enables the up-cycling of building components (e.g. concrete floor plates, glass elements, façade cladding) destined for dismantling. Starting from an indexed library of demolition rubble, a computational tool is able to guide the design of new buildings in order to optimize available materials. The entire library can be matched like jigsaw puzzle pieces onto adjustable shapes, producing significant money savings as well as a reduced carbon footprint for building construction. Material is placed in a holding pattern so that it maintains value and use through generations. The approach thereby attempts to create a less wasteful materials cycle by redeploying materials, and also reducing the volume of building rubble sent to landfill.
The LafargeHolcim Awards jury North America was very impressed by the pragmatism of the design method proposed in this research project that is able, in parallel, to promise a very compelling architecture. The idea of bringing new life to demolition rubble was found very relevant in terms of economic and environmental sustainability. The jury also appreciated the elegant and precise exemplifying design solutions that are featured along with the computational tool, which shows a clear sensitivity for architectural quality. In general, the idea of putting artificial intelligence combined with 3D printing at the service of both attractive design projects and resource conservation was found very powerful. The jury also considered the wide applicability in terms of building types and replicability in different geographic contexts a strong asset of the proposal.
AI and automation can transform the economics of down-cycling into up-cycling
Since the patent of the Bulldozer in 1932, buildings have been demolished without regard for the value of their material. There was public outcry in 1955 when demolition companies smashed up granite bathrooms in the Hotel Majestic West 72nd Street; the contractor argued “To recut the rosewood, mahogany and black walnut used in the interiors of the old glow room would have cost more than to use new materials." This project changes the economics of recycling building through automation. Conveyors of rubble are robotically scanned to form an indexed library. Machine learning algorithms trained to solve specific jigsaw puzzle problems are able to position each part into optimal configurations. Missing gaps can be custom fabricated, or robotic concrete printers extrude into targeted areas.
New York's Climate Mobilisation Act will require major recladding and disposal
The Climate Mobilisation Act will regulate the amount of energy that buildings in New York City can consume to avoid financial penalty via higher taxes. As such, many buildings will anticipate the removal of (already ageing) cladding systems in favour of high-performance finishes. This raises a question, what will happen to all the old facade material. Each ton of landfill waste currently costs USD 75 to dispose of, in addition to employing skilled workers for delicate work. Furthermore, once glass has been broken it cannot be returned into crystal clear float glass. Although the attempt to index, such facades is tedious work, the possibility of reusing the material in new constructions could help stimulate the transition to higher energy performance, and create a new sense of place for New York.
There have been persistent calls in history to think of the city’s material in new ways at this specific moment. Both Jane Jacobs and Cedric Price recognized in the post war housing boom that these structures would not last indefinitely. In 1962 Jane Jacobs suggested, “cities are the mines of the future criticizing the productions of postwar urbanism in a precursor to Rem Koolhaas reading the city as “Junkspace”. This project accepts this historic mission left for our generation, approaching the project of junk space as if it was Kintsugi. Within Kintsugi there is a sense of regret something was destroyed and an idea that putting it back together can yield a new sensibility. The hope here is to show a new sensibility for resource conservation that is repeatable across the planet.See more
Countless old concrete buildings will be torn down in the coming years. There is still no standard method for properly disposing of the resulting debris, only for downcycling the concrete. The project by Daniel Marshall, MIT Cambridge, shows how dismantled elements such as floor slabs can be used in the construction of new buildings. “It shows how we could make ‘reuse rather than destroy’ the default plan for the building industry,” says Marilyne Andersen.
The method is based on artificial intelligence. It is economical and reduces the carbon footprint. The rubble is first digitally scanned. A program then groups the identified materials and calculates how the individual pieces can be optimally reassembled, like puzzle pieces. Where necessary, gaps are filled using robotic concrete printers. The method also works for glass building envelopes. “The project tries to reuse material that has stood the test of time rather than demolish it and produce something new,” says Daniel Marshall. “It’s all about thinking realistically about some of the ways in which we construct.” The jury also appreciated the elegant and precise exemplifying design solutions presented along with the computational tool.Read more »
Next Generation 1st prize winner Unmaking Architecture, New York – Management tool for reusing salvaged materials by …
Author comment by Daniel Marshall, Teaching Fellow (2019/20), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA …
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